Sixty-eight days after the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) swept to power, the state government expanded its cabinet, with 10 ministers being sworn in on Tuesday. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who had taken oath on December 13, along with his trusted confidante and Home Minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali, had remained largely mum on the expansion of the cabinet until earlier this week.
While the expanded cabinet has old faces, one move that raised eyebrows was the decision by KCR to not induct his son, KT Rama Rao and his nephew, T Harish Rao. While KTR held several portfolios including Information Technology and Urban Development in the first term of the TRS government, few leaders in the state hold as much influence as Harish, who is the former Irrigation Minister.
A larger plan?
It was in the last week of January that Harish began shifting out of the Ministerial bungalow that he occupied on Road No 12 in Hyderabad's Banjara Hills area to his private residence in Kondapur. The move made it clear, that he was not going to be inducted into the cabinet, at least for now. This had also come weeks after KTR was made the Working President of the TRS.
Both politicians, known to be close to KCR, have been tasked with winning all Lok Sabha seats in the state for the TRS. Telangana has 17 seats and while there is an unofficial understanding with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) to give up the Hyderabad MP seat to Asaduddin Owaisi, the TRS is bent on ensuring that it wins all 16 seats. This will also help the TRS' chances as it attempts to lobby at the Centre for a Federal Front; a consortium of regional parties.
Observers say that both KTR and Harish were not inducted as they have been given the mammoth task of ensuring the TRS' victory in the upcoming polls.
"As far as KTR is concerned, he has become the TRS Working President. He has a full-time job till the Parliament elections," senior journalist and political analyst K Nageshwar Rao tells TNM.
Analysts feel that there are two situations that could play out, depending on the results of the Lok Sabha polls.
"If things go according to plan and the TRS will play a role in national politics, KTR may take over as the Chief Minister and KCR may go to the Centre. In case TRS does not have a big role to play at the Centre, then KCR will remain the CM and KTR and Harish Rao would be inducted into the cabinet," Nageshwar opines.
As of now, it is speculated that the cabinet will expand post-Lok Sabha elections expected to take place in March or April this year.
Harish dismisses dissent
Harish has been in the party with KCR since its inception, while KTR returned from the United States during the Telangana movement and rose swiftly through the party's ranks. Harish was often viewed as KCR's political heir prior to this, as he was the one who took over the TRS bastion of Siddipet from the party chief and has been the sitting MLA since 2004. This has often triggered speculation that there is friction between the first family of the TRS.
The politician also enjoys massive support at the grassroots level, which was proven when he won with a margin of more than 1 lakh votes, for the sixth consecutive time from Siddipet, with practically no sign of anti-incumbency. Despite this, Harish is reportedly upset ever since Congress leader Vanteru Pratap Reddy, who had contested against KCR from the Gajwel constituency, was inducted into the TRS, by KTR. Harish, who was tasked with ensuring KCR's victory in Gajwel, had traded several barbs and indulged in bitter exchanges with Vanteru during the campaign.
"Harish Rao now has two options in front of him if the TRS manages to perform well in the Lok Sabha polls. He either should reconcile to the fact that he has to work under KTR in Telangana itself, or he can go to the Centre to work under KCR," Nageshwar says.
"Obviously, no politician will be happy if he is not given any post. Harish has to weigh his options and see what choice he has," Nageshwar adds.
As if on cue, the seasoned politician that he is, Harish spoke to reporters during the swearing-in ceremony and refuted any speculation of dissent from within the party.
"I have said this several times, even before the elections. I am just an ordinary karyakarta in TRS. I have repeatedly said that whatever KCR wishes, we will follow and implement. The CM has expanded the cabinet keeping in mind the sentiments of people across all sections of society. Whatever role he gives to me, it is my duty to follow. The speculation that I'm upset is baseless," he said.